The Soft Heart that Soothes Suffering

Rainy_Autumn_ForestSaturday I spend time with a dear friend and colleague who is a beloved elder and healer. Over a fantastic lunch, with a mountain stream rushing along beside her home and a decidedly autumnal rain falling, we talked about our long friendship and the challenges we have faced. The discussion was, in turns, playful and serious, and deeply nourishing. We are both in our 60’s and have seen our share of challenges, personally, and in the lives of our families and clients; perhaps as a result we agreed suffering is inevitable, as is aging, which often brings its own suffering. We also agreed that it is a relief to soften one’s heart in the face of suffering; being present to pain is also an integral aspect of healing work, both for self and others. (Often, I find paying attention to my own pain is much more difficult than being with the pain of others.) Continue reading

In Good Faith

Autumn_StreamThe other evening I received a distressing phone call. It was one of those calls that stuns: confusing, painful, and shaming; it was also a misunderstanding, a misreading of an action I had taken in good faith. The caller’s response was understandable given what I now know, although their approach to addressing the problem was hurtful. Anyway, I was upset, so talked things over with Jennie, then drummed to look into it. Unfortunately, I could not still my mind enough to have any clarity, so I put down the drum and went to bed. Overnight I had two dreams that seemed to imply a positive outcome, and the issue appears to have been resolved. Continue reading

Silence, Story, and Healing

Autumn_PathThe woods are increasingly silent. Now and then a blue jay or a nuthatch calls, or a squirrel scolds. The wind in the trees is low-pitched as it moves through the bare upper branches of the golden-yellow birches and beech trees.

As the world grows quiet, our voices fill the evenings with story; it is a holy time. Soon the first snows will fall and the ancient stories will be told. Some of those stories will be about the First Beings who created and organized the world as we know it; others will be stories from our histories. In the end, for Native people, these are inseparable. Cultural, family, and individual stories and histories are interconnected, and fluid in time; when we approach a medicine person in search of  healing, they remind us that we are the First Beings as well as their progeny. Continue reading

The Ant and the Grasshopper

Autumn_MapleI just returned from a walk. Autumn has settled in, and the chilly wind off the lake soon drove me home. Even here, near the lake, color change is progressing rapidly; a few trees were stripped of their leaves by yesterday’s rain and wind, a few are near peak color, and perhaps half remain predominantly green. As the weather cools I find myself wanting to store food, seal the house, bring in firewood, and generally prepare to hibernate.

Speaking of preparing for winter, yesterday I found myself swapping versions of The Cricket and the Ant with clients. As you may recall from Aesop, the moral of the story is one should endeavor to store away resources for the future. If one does not, one might just go hungry, or worse. I imagine Aesop was a favorite of the Puritans, as his stories appear to embody their ethic. Anyway, we decided the ant represents the mind and the grasshopper the heart, and the story speaks to the conflicts between them. Continue reading

inspire envision breathe


Every now and then I find myself deeply moved by a piece of writing. This poem by Vera Wabegijig speaks beautifully to my hope for a renewed world.

Originally posted on wild rice dreams:

see, i have this dream

that the world will stop spinning

out of control, we hang onto the tree trunks so we don’t fall

off the edge into oblivion

if only we let our feet settle on the roots and dive into the ground

see, i have this dream

that if the world stopped spinning

out of control, we wouldn’t have to hold on so tight

we could let our toes wiggle and feel the breeze tickle our souls

see, in this dream

we take a break as the world spins

we wake with the sun, give thanks

walk along the earth and take notice of the seasons

how the wind bends the grasses, the branches

we just take a moment to breathe

let breath take over for a moment

see this dream

unfold before us as we spin on this earth

beneath stars that beckon us to dream


View original 148 more words

Sacred Conversations

Autumn_Bridge_StoweTalk therapy did not begin with Freud’s “talking cure”. Rather, strategic conversations have likely always been an important tool in the tool kits of Indigenous healers. My teachers often referred to deep, therapeutic discussions as “wisdom talks,” opportunities to speak with the elders, consider the problems in one’s ways, and, in the process, change one’s life.

Most likely, traditional healers have always known about “cognitive distortions,” those “crazy ideas” we all carry around with us, concepts and beliefs that make living in balance difficult. That said, it is important to understand that wisdom talks are only partially about the mind. Rather, they seek to balance mind, heart, and gut (intuition) in the service of the individual, and thus, the community, a community built on diversity and acceptance. Mind alone is not viewed as particularly trustworthy. Mind, heart, intuition, and spirit are all essential to human life, equally valued. We, as whole persons, are held in the arms of the larger community; community is then supported by innumerable beings, seen and unseen, that work with people to create continuity across generations. All of this occurs in a world saturated by relationship and Spirit. Thus, therapeutic conversations are understood to be about the sacred. Continue reading

Questioning the Expressive Therapies

Early_Autumn_ColorThis past weekend we were in Montreal for an Expressive Therapies training. Oddly, it quickly became evident the presentation would largely ignore the experiences of persons of color, First Nations people, and those with disabilities. At about the time Jennie and I were becoming concerned about the direction the training was taking, a woman further back in the audience asked about places of intersection between Narrative ideas and Cognitive Behavioral approaches to the Expressive therapies, and about liberatory practices. Her questions were never really answered, leaving me to wonder whether the approaches might be incomparable. Continue reading